Are we heading towards a second era of mass TV piracy?

A second age of mass piracy?
Is fractured TV worth the cost?

How much would you pay to legitimately watch all the TV shows you're desperate to keep up to date with?

Now that the very best shows are being disseminated between terrestrial, subscription television and over-the-top (OTT) streaming services it's going to cost a fortune if you want to always keep up with the latest top TV.

Either that or we return to a time when you gathered around the water-cooler, office kitchen or bar to talk about the latest events in Game of Thrones, and where there was a complicit understanding that most, if not all, of you had torrented the show from some illegitimate site.

Game of Thrones

That's my concern with the growing number of different places - whether traditional pay-TV bods or new contract-free OTT folk - offering gated, exclusive access to their own TV shows.

As much as there is evidence that a great number of people have both an OTT as well as a standard TV service - some 57% of UK households and the same in the US - there are going to be far fewer that can sign up to multiple OTT as well as a host of pay-TV subscriptions.


Game of Thrones can be exclusively found on Sky Atlantic here in the UK, The Walking Dead shambles around on Fox, Fear the Walking Dead is tied to AMC from BT, every Marvel show, and possibly all the Star Wars ones too, are on Netflix and the Emmy-nominated Transparent is exclusively on Amazon Prime Instant Video.

For all that you'd be looking at paying just over £800 to have the basic Sky package, the cheapest Netflix sub, Amazon Prime and BT TV for a full year.

And no one is going to do all that. Surely.

House of Cards

So something's got to give - and if you're not interested in getting your broadband from BT then it's going to be that which gets the first chop. Likewise if you're not bothered about next day delivery then you're probably going to ditch Amazon Prime and its £79/year price tag.

Those two both demand a full 12 month commitment to their cause - which is conversely what makes Netflix's monthly contract-free service such a good weapon against piracy.

You can jump in and out of a Netflix sub, so when your favourite show gets another series released in full on the streaming service you can pick up another month's subscription, get your fix and drop out when you're done.

Netflix though is obviously working hard at getting enough content signed up to its service so you don't let your subscription slide.


Sky has also been very smart about this with its separate NOW TV packages.

Like with Netflix you can come and go as you please - either drop £15 on a Roku-built NOW TV box and a month's entertainment package or just go online via a browser or mobile app with your month pass.

It's this sort of effort made by the content providers to make it as easy, and convenient, as possible for the consumer to get the content they want which will keep the piracy levels down and ensure the people making the actual shows get paid.

And Netflix especially is specifically targeting piracy.

Back in April Netflix's CFO, David Wells explained that "piracy is a governor in terms of our price in high piracy markets outside the US. We wouldn't want to come out with a high price because there's a lot of piracy, so we have to compete with that."

But with more and more money spent garnering exclusives for different platforms and services, with the express intention of tying the consumer into their own gated-community rather than maintaining lower levels of piracy, the TV market is going to become ever more fractured.

And with that the torrent sites are going to start getting a lot busier again.

It could be worse though, if you wanted to watch all the live Premier League and Champions League football there is that's liable to cost you nearer £900 for the year...